SITTWE—The commander of the Border Guard Police in Rakhine State’s Maungdaw has described as “backstabbing” the Arakan Army (AA)’s coordinated attacks on four police outposts in Buthidaung Township on Jan. 4.
“The Border Guard Police cooperate with the Tatmadaw on security and protection of Rakhine State against threats from ARSA [the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army]. But the AA orchestrated [attacks] to undermine stability in Rakhine State. I view this as stabbing us in the back,” Police Brig-Gen. Myint Toe told reporters on Sunday.
“Everybody knows whether the [AA] should have done this. [The AA] attacked while the Tatmadaw [the Myanmar military]’s units were off guard, and while there were fewer military units [in the area] as they were performing other duties. Under such circumstances, they attacked with heavy forces. I think it is an act [aimed at] taking political advantage,” he added.
The Tatmadaw declared a four-month unilateral ceasefire on Dec. 21 in five military regions. The ceasefire does not cover Rakhine State, which is overseen by the country’s Western Command.
The government said 13 police were killed and nine others injured in the AA attacks on Jan. 4 as Myanmar celebrated the 71st anniversary of independence from British rule.
Police lost 40 small arms, over 16,000 rounds of ammunition and a walkie-talkie in the attacks, the government said.
Khaing Thu Kha, the AA’s information officer, said the armed group launched the attacks because the Myanmar Army stationed troops at the police outposts. He also accused police of helping the Tatmadaw conduct artillery attacks on the AA.
Police Brig-Gen Myint Toe denied the AA’s claim.
“We provided fire support only after they [the AA] launched attacks. Our Border Guard Police force No. 8 provided fire support for the Nga Myin Baw police outpost, and the Tatmadaw provided fire support for the Kyaung Taung police outpost. We didn’t engage in artillery fire,” he told reporters.
The AA abducted 18 people, including security personnel and some of their family members, in the Jan. 4 attacks but later released them.
The Myanmar Police Force announced on Saturday that it had filed cases against those involved in the attacks under the Counter Terrorism Law. If found guilty, the accused face maximum sentences of 10 years in prison.